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Attacks/Breaches

6/11/2014
05:40 PM
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Wave Of DDoS Attacks Down Cloud-Based Services

Feedly fends off ransom demands of its attackers.

The popular Feedly news and information aggregator service continues to struggle to get back up and running today after suffering a powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that it says included the attackers demanding ransom.

Feedly officials said that they had no intention of paying the attackers to curtail the attack, and that they were working with law enforcement officials and other victims of DDoS attacks by the same group. The note-taking app service Evernote and the music-streaming service Deezer have acknowledged they were hit by attacks this week, with Evernote alerting its customers this morning. Both of those services are back up and running.

The RSS provider gave users a heads up about the attack around 2:00 a.m. PT today, noting that the attackers were demanding they pay a ransom fee to stop the attack. "Criminals are attacking feedly with a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). The attacker is trying to extort us money to make it stop. We refused to give in and are working with our network providers to mitigate the attack as best as we can. We are working in parallel with other victims of the same group and with law enforcement," company officials posted in a blog today. "Please know that [your] data is safe and you will be able to re-access your feedly as soon as the attack is neutralized."

The cloud-based service shifted its infrastructure to get back online, but it warned that it would take time. "These things take some time to put into place and it may still be a few more hours before service is restored. Thank you so much for your patience and for sticking with us," Feedly said in its blog post. "Remember, none of your data was compromised or lost in this attack."

Feedly turned to CloudFlare to restore its service. "As soon as that's complete, I'm sure they'll be back online, and we'll know more about the details of the attack," Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, said in an email exchange with Dark Reading.

The attacks on Feedly and Evernote do not appear to be related to the ongoing Anonymous DDoS attacks on Brazilian government websites and companies associated with supporting the World Cup, which kicks off tomorrow in Sao Paolo. The so-called #OpHackingCup DDoS campaign waged by a Brazilian arm of Anonymous is protesting the Brazilian government. "We are pursuing the government of Brazil because of their corruption and actions against the people. You have created a system which ensures the poor remain poor, and the wealthy remain wealthy. It is very clear to us that you have no intention of running the country for the people, but you will continue to run it for your own personal interest," the hacktivist said in an online post. "Anonymous demands that the Government of Brazil put an immediate end to corruption and stop the use of force and violence against peaceful demonstrators. We cannot stand idly while these injustices are being done. Know that we stand together and united to fight against this oppression."

Ransom demands in DDoS attacks are more the handiwork of financially motivated cybercriminals. "A lot of software-as-a-service companies are getting extorted and, believe it or not, for ridiculous amounts of money," says Marc Gaffan, chief business officer and founder of Incapsula, an anti-DDoS provider.

Gaffan says attackers typically demand anywhere from $300 to $800, purposely low fees, so that companies wanting a quick fix can get it done quickly, rather than battling the attacks, which can be time-consuming to recover from fully. "Some companies say, 'Let's just do it if they are willing to go away.'" His firm sees dozens of these types of extortion DDoS attacks on a weekly basis.

Feedly and the other victims have not revealed any details on the type or form of DDoS attacks they suffered. Gaffan says it's likely a network-based attack, but it could also have elements of a layer seven attack that overloads the application.

Barrett Lyon, a DDoS expert and principal strategist for F5 Networks, says Feedly likely was hit by a multipronged DDoS attack, especially since it has taken so long to recover. "It could be going to all kinds of different layers of their network," he says. "We are seeing mixed attacks" that combine NTP and DNS reflection attacks, as well as application-layer traffic overload.

"They typically go after several sites in the same community and end up focusing on one site, moving to another. The sites go up and down at various times," Lyon says.

Different DDoS attacks from different groups often occur simultaneously, he says, with different botnets and techniques. "At the same time [of these extortion attacks], Anonymous is doing their whole OpHackingCup thing. The two combined result in a bloody day."

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 11:53:52 AM
Re: The future of doing business on the internet
That goes along with the overarching incident response reality that you're going to get attacked, so have a plan in place. There's no way to stop a determined bad guy, whether it's a DDoS or a hack into servers. 
Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 11:49:56 AM
The future of doing business on the internet
I fear that the cost of doing business on the internet will include a subscription to a scrubbing service like CloudFlare or Prolexic.  DDOS is a very tricky issue with no simple solution and as such I believe internet based companies need to view scrubbing services as a form of online insurance.
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